NZSki CEO hopeful for 2023 season after 'unseasonably warm' start

by Lauren Pattemore - Jul 04, 2023

Despite a “warm spell” kicking off the season and a week-long closure at Coronet Peak, NZSki chief executive Paul Anderson is optimistic for the rest of the winter.

“Over the last five days, we've been building that snow base up really well.

“Remarkables in this latest storm cycle has received 67 centimetres of snow. Coronet’s a little less, probably more like 20 to 25, but it's had really, really good snow-making conditions."

Packed: A webcam view of the learners slopes at Remarkables at 2pm today. 

The recent dumping of snow has been “an absolute godsend” for the start of the New Zealand school holidays, he says.

“The snowpack is what you'd call early season conditions…The next couple of weeks we can see a couple more snow systems coming in...We should be good for the rest of the season."

He says there are fewer locals and season pass holders out on the slopes than usual but is expecting them to “really crank it” once the school holidays are finished.

“I think a lot of the locals might have come up for a day or two and then left it to the visitors until we get more snow – us locals, we get pretty spoiled."

He reckons this morning's Remarkables snow report might “excite a few people” and prompt more onwards bookings beyond the school break.

“Kiwis are quite notorious for booking last minute.”

Yesterday, Queenstown hotelier Mark Rose told Crux his post-holiday hotel bookings aren't as full as they could be, quoting the less than ideal start to the season as the cause.

NZSki's Paul Anderson new 4WD buses are on the way.

Mr Anderson says despite the slow start he's been able to retain all of NZSki’s 1,400 seasonal staff pool; however, hours were cut for Coronet workers during the one-week closure. 

“We set that expectation with the staff. We say when they take on the contracts with us, there's the possibility of a late start to the season or even closures during the season.

“We encourage them to make sure they've got enough savings to get them through a spell.”

For the first time, some seasonal staff are being housed at accommodation recently purchased by NZSki and located on Henry Street. The hostel-style facility sleeps 72 people in private pods with shared facilities.

Mr Anderson says changes to tenancy laws and a loss of rentals to Airbnb motivated the business to move into the market.

However, it still relies largely on the private market to house its seasonal staff.

One 2023 NZSki worker took to social media this morning in a bid to secure a place to stay, saying he's is sleeping in his car and "urgently" needed a room.

"I feel extremely cold, hopeless and desperate at the moment," the Coronet Peak worker says in his post, "I am really in need of someone's help during this challenging time." 

This year, Mr Anderson says there were 6,000 applications from would-be workers - a “real return to pre-pandemic levels”.

Also returning to pre-Covid familiarity, Mr Anderson says there are lots of Australians out on the slopes.

Crux spoke with skiers and snowboarders waiting for the bus up the mountain on Duke Street this morning at 8am, finding many Australians in the queue, who provided visitor insights.

Bus queuers were out in force this morning - some chatted with Crux.

Two Queensland families, first-timers to the area, said they’d definitely return but would schedule their ski trip differently, and not come in peak holiday time again.

They said the slopes were crowded yesterday, and bus wait times were long - one father said his family waited for two hours to get on a bus down the mountain yesterday, which wasn’t ideal after a day of skiing.

Mr Anderson says that there were nearly 3,000 people up The Remarkables yesterday and chains were required for all vehicles.

He says there is only so much space on the road, and NZSki has only approximately 30 busses and shuttles.

The Queensland families described Queenstown as an “awesome place” and also spoke highly of the NZSki staff.

Another woman, also here from Australia, was headed up for her third consecutive day up the mountain, having never been to Queenstown before.

She says the bus wait times were “nothing dramatic”, but yesterday morning it’d taken almost an hour later than scheduled before she was up the mountain.

It wasn’t enough to hamper her spirits, though, and she commented that NZSki staff were “all super friendly” and she would definitely return for another trip, wanting to check out Cardona and Treble Cone next time.

It seems to be an improvement from last year, with long waits for the bus and bus-queuers saying they wouldn’t be back.

Mr Anderson told Crux last year that the company was putting in orders for new four-wheel drive buses that would arrive in 2023, and he confirmed today that one of those had arrived while two were on the way. 

Main image: Coronet Peak mountain webcam as at 9.23am, Tuesday July 4.

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